The Book of Acts

The Victory of the Gospel

Many historians believe that the three most crucial decades in world history occurred when a small group of men, mostly Jews under the power of the Holy Spirit, took the gospel to the world. The book of Acts is an account of those three crucial decades, which spanned from the resurrection of Jesus, in A.D. 31, to the end of Paul’s first Roman imprisonment, in A.D. 62 (Acts 28:30). The book must have been written shortly thereafter, for it stops the narrative at that point, though evidence exists that Paul was released from that imprisonment and that he resumed his missionary endeavors, preaching and traveling until he was arrested a few years later and then executed in Rome, in A.D. 67.

The book is silent about its author, but church tradition has always identified him as Luke, “the beloved physician” of Colossians 4:14 and traveling companion of Paul (2 Tim. 4:11Philemon 24). Luke is also traditionally believed to be the author of our third Gospel, no doubt “the first book” mentioned in Acts 1:1 (compare with Luke 1:3). Both Luke and Acts are twin volumes on the beginnings of Christianity, respectively its origin (Jesus’ life and ministry) and expansion (the apostles’ missionary endeavors).

Together they comprise about 27 percent of the New Testament, the largest contribution of a single author. Writing to the Colossians, Paul refers to Luke as a Gentile coworker, someone who was not “of the circumcision” (Col. 4:7-14). Luke, then, is the only non-Jewish author of a New Testament book.

This seems to explain one of his main themes: the universality of salvation. God has no favorites. The church is called to witness to all people, irrespective of their race, social class, or gender (Acts 1:8Acts 2:21Acts 2:39-40Acts 3:25Acts 10:28Acts 10:34-35). A failure to do so, whether by prejudice or convenience, is a distortion of the gospel and contrary to the most basic truths of God’s Word. We are, before God, all the same: sinners in need of the redemption found in Christ Jesus.

It is not by chance, then, that Luke’s main hero is Paul, “the apostle to the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:13, NIV), to whom almost two-thirds of the book of Acts is dedicated.

Other important themes found in Acts include: the sovereignty of God and His divine purpose (Acts 17:24-25Acts 20:27Acts 23:11); the exaltation of Jesus as Lord and Savior (Acts 2:32Acts 2:36Acts 3:13Acts 3:15Acts 4:10-12Acts 5:30-31); and especially the role of the Spirit in empowering and guiding the church for its mission (Acts 2:1-4Acts 4:24-31Acts 8:14-17Acts 8:29Acts 8:39Acts 10:19-20). In fact, the achievements of the early church were not the result of human wisdom or ability, though it pleased God to use someone like Paul to impact the world in a way that no other apostle did or perhaps was able to do (1 Cor. 15:10).

Acts deals with the formative period of the early church, in which there was considerable administrative and even theological growth. We can see this, for example, in the way the church dealt with questions concerning the time of Jesus’ second coming, the status of the Gentiles, and the role of faith for salvation. What the early church was able to accomplish in such a short period of time, however, is a perpetual testimony of what God can do through those who humble their hearts in prayer, live beyond individual differences, and let themselves be used by the Spirit for God’s honor and glory.

Acts is the story of those called of God to start the work; what can we who are called of God to finish it learn from their story?

Wilson Paroschi is a professor of New Testament interpretation at Brazil Adventist University (UNASP), in Engenheiro Coelho, São Paulo. He holds a PhD degree in New Testament from Andrews University (2004) and performed post-doctoral studies at the University of Heidelberg, Germany (2011).


The Book of Acts — 16 Comments

  1. Did anyone else notice that this says AD 31? I believe the actual date for the death and resurrection of Jesus is AD 27.

    • Sharon, I think Adventists generally accept 31AD as the year of the crucifixion. 27AD is regarded as the start of his ministry, not the crucifixion. Scholarly opinion is that the crucifixion occurred in the period 30-33AD.

      • Yes, thanks. My brain was a little off this morning. I've been looking all over for a way to delete my comment and haven't found it.

        • That’s ok Sharon. Sometimes we all learn from situations like this. The only bad question is the one that is not asked! And if ever you want a comment deleted, just add a comment to that effect. With a bit of luck we will see it before you original comment is published.

  2. "small group of men, mostly Jews under the power of the Holy Spirit, took the gospel to the world."

    We hear & read the word "gospel" used so often.
    What would you say the gospel is?

    • That is a very good question. And I sometimes wonder if we have the same idea about the gospel as the early church had. Today I hear the term "full gospel", admittedly usually in the context that we are not preaching the "full gospel". That generally means, "I don't like what you are preaching!"

      In a nutshell I think the gospel is the good news that we are saved by the grace of Jesus, but that idea needs to be said in a language that is understandable and lived in a way that shows that we have a relationship with the author of the Gospel. All too often our expression of the Gospel is incomprehensible to those that need it most, and our methods look like spiritual colonialism.

      • Maurice,

        Thanks for the reply and any readers will notice that your response includes two words that need further explanation....saved & grace.

        Gospel, grace and salvation are key terms used so much in churches and yet are assumed to be understood.

        • You are right Jim. I have always thought that when we think of "saved" as meaning a state that we arrive at after the second coming is limiting and furthermore, selfish. Saved is a state of living in the present that has a relationship with Jesus. It tempers what we do and how we interact with others. Grace is the powerhouse of that relationship. We can use a whole lot of synonyms to describe it, but I think that the response of the Psalmist is best; "Oh taste and see that the Lord is good!" Grace is an experiential relationship initiated by God.

          It is a bit like ice-cream. I could write paragraphs of description and explanation about what it is like to eat, but giving you a plate of ice-cream to eat surpasses all the verbiage. Grace too, has to be tasted!

  3. "Other important themes found in Acts include: the sovereignty of God."

    Some bible teachers include with, God is sovereign, that He is in control of everything, is omnipotent/all powerful.

    What is God really in control of considering the statement near the end of the introduction..."what God can do through those who humble their hearts in prayer, live beyond individual differences, and let themselves be used by the Spirit for God’s honor and glory."?

    • God is in control of everything but He doesn’t control us. Rather, out of love He allows us free will to make our choices. He wants to work with us to accomplish His perfect will but He awaits our decision to do so.

  4. One of the texts used in the intro was ACTS 20:27.. "For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God."

    What does Paul mean by "the whole" and from the context, why did he declare it?

  5. I did not know that Luke was a Gentile. Amazing fact for me. Secondly, I really appreciate this statement_ "What the early church was able to accomplish in such a short period of time, however, is a perpetual testimony of what God can do through those who humble their hearts in prayer, live beyond individual differences, and let themselves be used by the Spirit for God’s honor and glory.' may God help us submit to His guidance in carrying out His work. Thank you.

  6. the lesson states that Luke wrote 27% of the New Testament,
    can anyone tell us what percentage was written by Paul and John (gospel of John, letters & revelation)?

    • Hi Shirley,
      This link from 3ABN-YouTube (starting from 5min 20s) will lead you to the lesson where they say Paul wrote 23% of the New Testament!

  7. The comments for Monday July 16 appear [to me to be] wrong on several levels: The Lord says these are my appointed Feasts. He dosen’t say these are the Feasts of the Jews
    Leviticus 23:1-2
    The Appointed Festivals
    The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘These are my appointed festivals, the appointed festivals of the Lord, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies.
    Among them are the the Sabbath and the Spring Feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread, First fruits or Pentecost and the Fall Feasts of Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement and Feast of Tabernacles.

    Many Christians in addition to keeping the weekly Sabbath keep these annual Sabbaths. I meet some Adventist once in Tennessee that did.

    I think commentators are incorrect when they say Peter and John were Jews and as such were committed to Jewish religious traditions (Acts 20:16, 21:17-26). First of all the texts refer to Paul not Peter and John. Pentecost was not just an appointed feast of Jews but of the Lord!


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